The 49ers have something special. Something they haven't had in a while. An excellent offensive backfield. They have a very good running back in Garrison Hearst, he is explosive and never says die. He is also a good receiver out of the backfield. Unfortunately though, he is injury prone, which means he may be replace if the 49ers can find someone to do so. They have Terry Kirby, a great receiver out of the backfield who is more then capable as a backup (last year of contract). They have Marc Edwards, the young full back they picked up in the 97 draft. He is a big back, and quite quick. Lastly they have William "Bar None" Floyd. He is phenomenal full back but is in his last year of his contract, and with Edwards around, may be deemed "expendable".
However it's not who the 49ers have in the backfield, it's how they use there talent. With Floyd all but gone, a Hearst/Edwards backfield is quite foreseeable. Ideally the 49ers should choose this pair as they provide the perfect combination of size speed and skill. Though the 9ers will probably move to a 3 WR set more often this year, and run less, don't be surprised if Edwards and Hearst share the running job equally. Mainly because keeping the other team off balance may be allow the 49ers to pick up 4 or 5 yards every first down by running the ball.
The two provide an excellent change of pace, because their styles are so different they are almost opposite. Hearst is an explosive, quick back, that never says die. If Edwards lives up to what the 49ers expect, he will be a big, fairly fast, "I'm gonna run right at you try and stop me" type of back. The confusion this would cause other defenses is just unbelievable. Just as the team is getting used to seeing, I-formation, Hearst the farther back, the ball handed to him; they are hit with, I-formation, Hearst still the farther back, only the ball is given to Edwards. Better still Edwards lines farther back, and Hearst can block.
Tom Rathman the offensive backfield coach, needs to recognize the talent he has and the most effective way to use it. Assuming Edwards runs a 4.3-4.5 40, he could become a back like Bettis. This really big and still fast running back idea seems to be the wave of the future. The sooner this is realized the sooner the 49ers will be able to achieve the new offense they are looking for. The 49ers may still look to the draft to find a running back they can mold and shape into the prototype for their future offense.